Haftarah HaChodesh: Time and Space
Ezekiel 45:16 – 46:18
Everything new becomes old. Over the years, my children were often desperate for a toy or gadget. They would plead, pester and beg for the newest thing. Inevitably, they would win and they would get the newest and hottest item. Inevitably, they would soon grow bored of their new item and would begin the process all over again fighting for the next newest thing.
Even the majestic Temple of God in Jerusalem could become old hat. Even the Third Temple, described by Ezekiel, can become familiar and comfortable. The awe would dissipate. The excitement would lose its air.
Ezekiel describes a law designed to combat the familiarity of the Beit Hamikdash. People were not allowed to leave the Temple grounds through the same gate through which they entered. They could not use the same gate twice in one day, so that they would not become too comfortable in any part of the Temple or its grounds. Except…
Except the “Nasi” – Prince. The Nasi could enter and leave through the same gate. For some reason, the prophet was not concerned with the Prince becoming too accustomed to the Temple.
Who was the Nasi? Some opinions hold that the title was reserved for the Cohen Gadol – The High Priest. Others hold that the Prince was the king. There was no risk of either losing the thrill, awe and excitement of serving and visiting the Temple. The Cohen Gadol was in charge of the service in the Temple. His responsibilities prevented his functions from becoming too familiar. The King was in charge of the law of the land. It was his responsibility to lead the nation, direct them and guide them in the delicate balance between their lives inside the Temple and without.
Ezekiel describes the consecration of the Third Temple and chooses the theme of the “New” and the “Familiar” as the core of his message. The prophet takes us back to the final stage of the Exodus. He describes the Rosh Chodesh Offering – the offering of the New Month. The Hebrew for month is Chodesh and is spelled the same as Chadash – that which is new.
The Mitzvah of Kiddush HaChodesh – The Sanctification of the New Month – was the first Mitzvah given to Israel as a people. It was the Mitzvah used to introduce all the steps of the Korban Pesach – The Paschal Offering. The blood of the Pesach was sprinkled on the doorposts and lintels of the homes of the Children of Israel, just as the blood of the consecration sacrifices in this prophetic selection was sprinkled on the doorposts and lintels of the Temple Courtyard and Altar.
We take the choice of that first Mitzvah so seriously that we even consider, on the Seder night, whether we should begin telling the story of the Exodus on Rosh Chodesh. The first Rashi on the Torah considers why the Torah does not begin with this important Mitzvah – the first given to Israel as a nation.
Chadash – the New – is a key to freedom. The ability to see the world, our lives and us with a new perspective – as Chadash – is the beginning of freedom. It allows freedom from past perceptions of the world, others and us. The first Mitzvah was the gift of seeing the world with fresh eyes and to understand that we experience constant renewal in nature and can use that process for our lives.
We also experienced an entirely new level of relationship with the Creator. God summoned Moshe and Aharon, interestingly, the king and the Cohen Gadol, to join Him in forming a Beit Din – a Court – to sanctify the New Moon – Rosh Chodesh. The angels Michael and Gavriel were summoned as witnesses. We became active participants with God in creating the realities of time.
We were not only participants; we were given the responsibility and power to determine Time. We, human beings, decide when the New Month begins. We determine when Rosh Hashana begins. God will not sit in judgment until we declare that the month of Tishrei has begun. God waits for our decision. We were not only participants. We were empowered with this first commandment to shape time itself.
I understand the Paschal Offering as the Consecration Offering of Israel as a nation, an empowered nation. The blood of the Paschal Lamb was used to mark our space in order to protect us during the plague of the Slaying of the Egyptian First Born. We created our own space with the blood of the Pesach offering. We were not only masters of time, but of space as well. We, who could create a protected space, could create the sanctified space of the Temple.
The Temple is called Ohel Moed – The Tent of Meeting – the place where time and space meet. (Moed is also the term for special moments in time.)
The Third Temple, described by Ezekiel, will be the mark of a beginning of a different existence. Time and space will change. The past will be purified and we will no longer struggle with the painful and confusing issues of our current lives.
It will only work when we realize the power and accept the responsibility to shape time and space, to create special moments and places. The freedom of the existence symbolized by the Third Temple will challenge us in new ways. Only the appreciation and use of our power over time and space will allow us to maintain the Chadash – the sense of the new, even in such a wonderful place.
We are beginning our final approach to Pesach, our holiday of freedom. We will consecrate ourselves as a people. We will consecrate ourselves to a vision of being able to master time and space and to appreciate each day, each moment as new and a fresh opportunity.